Posted: February 23, 2020
Guest Blog By: Emily Ragland, North Carolina State University Graduate Assistant, M.S. Candidate Youth, Family and Community Science Program, Family Life Educator

The first time I heard about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) was in a committee meeting about childhood and community resilience. I had worked with youth and families for over a decade as a family educator, behavior specialist and autism professional but the wording and acronym, ACEs, were new to me. Once I learned what specific experiences were included in the conversation around ACEs, I immediately thought about the number of ACEs I experienced in my childhood. I would later find out that I was not the only person in the room whose mind went there.

I wonder if our minds went to our ACE number because we are humans or because we are empathetic professionals who often try to put ourselves in the shoes of those we serve. What I did know was the number many of us ended up with felt daunting and almost overwhelming. Here we are, professionals who are educated and experienced in family support, feeling stuck by this single number. It was at that point that I committed to learning more about how we can help our communities so they know they are more than their ACE number.

As I sat in this meeting, I felt like we had to come up with something better than just telling people they are looking at a life of struggle and challenges. I found out that Prevent Child Abuse NC (PCANC) was well ahead of me and not only did they have that same thought, but they were doing something about it. They committed to focusing not on the trauma itself, but on ways to prevent trauma from ever occurring, as well as ways to successfully strengthen youth and families following trauma. With that same goal in mind, I attended the Connections Matter and Protective Factors training at PCANC.

The PCANC team spent the day not only teaching us, but connecting with us. That feeling of being a part of a caring group of people will stick with me forever. This was the feeling that PCANC and its partners were tasked to build for and within our own communities…connection. The resources that were shared were powerful, but the feelings we experienced were what stuck with me most.

I am, and always have been a firm believer that we can be the change we want to see – and because of my time in this training I know that I have the tools to do so. As a family educator, I take pride in offering resources to families as they learn how to best support their child as well as their unit as a whole. Adding the information as it relates to protective factors and resilience to my toolkit set me up to be a part of the solution.

It will continue to be important that I meet families in their moments of struggle but now I can do so with tools that can offer them a brighter future. After all, we are only more than our ACE number if we have people in our corner helping us get past our traumas and that’s what I plan to do.